Between mind and matter; free will and determinism.
- This leads us to one last point of disagreement between some religion / spirituality, and science which regards the order of cause and effect in the relationship between mind and physical reality.
Notions of “mind” as cause can refer to “God”, or to other ideas that matter is in some way a product of conscious activity.
This discussion is not intended to answer this question, only to point out the absolute nature of the ways in which they are related, and to discuss the question with an open mind.
Regardless of the order of cause and effect, it is clear that there must be some form of relational “boundary zone” between the physical and non physical; free will and determinism. Where the relating characteristics of matter mediating relationship between the “massive”, can converge with the “massless” relating properties of mind.
Abilities of mind result from the organizing activities of “information” on physical reality, and are the means of managing the relatedness between the two “categories” of physical reality which are the “body” and “everything else”.
The root of the disagreement regarding order of cause and effect, seems to come down to the question of whether it is possible for some “existence” of mind to occur independently of, or to predate these abilities.
It would appear to require this, since in the system of relatedness between aspects of physical reality, the occurrence of apparently “dead” things such as rocks and water do appear to have predated the abilities of mind.
It seems sensible to conclude therefor that the experience of “being” itself might be correctly understandable as one of these abilities of the informational content of reality designed to facilitate relatedness between “self” and “organism”, rather than something predating this.
What follows is genuinely and respectfully intended as an open minded discussion to see if there might be any thought compatible with both science and more spiritual based thought systems capable of mutually interacting with any truthful understanding which may occur in both.
While personal biases are acknowledged in this regard, the author undertakes to maintain openness to the certainties of others and to allow them to influence his own. So long as you get me on a good day. I might also struggle if you are a creationist.
Firstly, “we” have the experience of being the matter of the universe, since the boundary between “us” and “everything else” simply represents variations in concentration and modes of interaction between the same stuff. The body is essentially a zone of transit within the “communicating medium” of reality into and out of which cause and effect is transmitted.
We also have the experience of being “informationally organized” by DNA.
We do not however have the experience of being a non informationally organized aspect of reality.
Scientific assessments of the non informationally organized aspects of reality are therefor effectively “behavioral” in that they can only depend upon outwardly exhibited properties.
The fact that we know that physical reality can experience “being” in certain configurations, means we cannot entirely discount the possibility that it may occur in others.
That we have had the experience of being an informationally organized aspect but not a non informationally organized one may introduce potential bias.
In addition physical reality, via it’s origin in the “big bang” might be truthfully understandable as a non physical origin for physical reality.
Solid matter is composed of “parts”, the smallest of which appear not to be “matter-like”.
Matter then might be thought of as the agreement between aspects of reality which cannot be thought of as being composed of matter, to nonetheless interact as if they were. If mind was at the heart of this, then matter might be reducible to various “agreements” to “repel” and “attract”, or to “hold apart” and “connect”.
To the extent which either conclusion regarding the order of cause and effect is based on common sense or wishful thinking rather than actual apprehended truth, there is no cause to make a hard and fast “decision” regarding their truth or otherwise.
Rather they are hypotheses which may be believed, but also allowed to be confirmed or modified in the ongoing process of the relatedness of thought.
This is perfectly harmless within an environment where no belief is defended.
One cannot create this environment for one’s “self”, since the environmental fluctuation which is belief is created for “self” by “others”. The only way to contribute to such an environment therefor is by not defending one’s own belief.
It is also sensible since what we do know is that common sense and truth are not fully correlated, and whenever truthful understandings advance it is usually common sense which is overturned.
Continuing the discussion of mind vs matter as cause of the reality we experience:
If the “physical” aspect of reality is understood as a single system composed of a communicating medium for the transmission of cause and effect throughout itself, this could be thought of as a ubiquitous characteristic of physical reality.
This connectedness is seemingly always detectable within the apparent separation of things, with the exception of the conscious experience of being. Each example of being appears to be absolutely distinct and non “experience-able” from one such experience to another.
This is meant in the sense that “I” cannot experience “your” thoughts or feel “your” feelings, at least not as you do. The division is so absolute that I have in fact no way of being sure that “you” even experience “existence” at all.
It cannot be denied that the experience of being is linked in with everything else in some form, yet the manner of it’s apparent relatedness seems to be a singular divergence from an otherwise uniform pattern.
This seems somewhat explainable within a reality in which the informational organization of matter (evolution) is seen as cause, and experience of “being” is effect. However seemingly all other examples of evolved strategy follow the same relational patterns between “self” and “other” by which everything else functions:
All such strategy represents a negotiated relatedness between “something” (self) and “everything else” (environment) – a way of imitating but failing to achieve “separate selfness”. Why is the experience of “being” as an entirely “separate” existence such a comparatively absolute one?
This divergence from an otherwise uniform pattern of relatedness may or may not be significant. However if mind is taken to be cause and physical reality effect, the question which must be answered is: by what mechanism?
How could so many isolated minds, each operating according to the different needs which each perceives, be “causing” a single connected reality?
The only possible explanation in this scenario seems to be that the mind does in fact exist in the same interconnected pattern of relatedness by which the rest of reality functions.
If this were the case, the interpretation of mind as unrelated to itself may be cause, and physical reality effect.
Consciousness or mind would be a single “field” which either through choice or error has become confused and fractured in it’s perception of itself, but which despite this remains a whole. Since it is still a whole it must still remain in some form of relationship even if one “part” does not perceive itself as related to “another”.
How could mind which perceives itself as fractured and isolated in pieces, be able to direct it’s behaviors as if it were, if in fact it were still a single field of consciousness?
If such a situation had occurred, the one continuous mind of which we were all an expression might be thought of as analogous to a single sheet of paper which has been screwed up into a tight ball.
The structure of the ball might appear entirely chaotic and disconnected from within, yet this would not alter the fact that it was one contiguous whole, capable of being recognized as such.
It seems that the communicating medium of the physical universe, being the mechanism that it is for seamlessly accommodating the interactions between the “parts” of what are actually a whole would be an entirely consistent, and in fact astonishingly elegant outcome.
This could be thought of as the mechanism for facilitating the absolutely precise accommodations between the confused efforts of these various deluded (but absolutely in-separate) aspects of one mind that must occur.
This is an explanation which clearly conflicts in the extreme with common sense as mind generally interprets it, but it is a logically consistent and beautiful idea at least.
The huge number of mind expressions each with their associated “free will” somehow come to find themselves as “separate”. Each in essence literally goes to war to wrest the deterministic flow of the one reality (which they all share since they are all expressions of it) to move in the manner which they prefer. This is negotiated within the flow of physical reality.
Yet these actions represent environmental fluctuation to “other minds”, so to the extent that they perceive themselves as not of “one mind”, interests appear different and conflict exists. Intractable and inevitable.
Via the “generalized adaptive feedback mechanism”, aspects of reality gradually develop strategies of relationship between “self” and “non self”. Each development simultaneously represents environmental fluctuation from a different perspective, stimulating further adaptive response, eventually leading to and then beyond current biological evolution.
The continuous functioning of this feedback mechanism ultimately becomes a purely “truth seeking” one.
Once this occurs, it seems likely that the ability of free will to direct physical reality would result in an inevitable rapid evolution towards harmony, since part of truthful understanding is that we cannot prevent our actions from affecting a reality which cannot detach itself from our actions.
This would ultimately allow mind to return to the understanding that it is one contiguous whole.
At the very beginning of this process, mind would start out with only one ability – the ability to “project” a fractured physical world.
- Whatever the order of cause and effect, the abilities of mind clearly evolved along with the interrelatedness of physical reality going back into the past, since abilities simply act to mediate the relationship between those aspects of physical reality identified as the “self” and those aspects identified as “non-self”.
The earliest example whereby an organism’s movements were directed by a sentient mind, represents a sentient contribution to both activities of “self” and fluctuations of “environment”.
It is therefor the point where “mind” began to play a part in determining the course of reality.
Abilities of mind are now becoming increasingly able to cause the patterns of relatedness within reality to unfold according to patterns determined and directed by mind.
So in the past the interactions of matter appear to have resulted in mind; currently the apparent order of cause and effect operates in both directions, and in the future – who knows?
That which constitutes a “common sense” conclusion might be different for minds existing within a reality at either end of the evolutionary continuum, simply based upon the characteristics of the environment in which they find “themselves”.
Copyright © 2013 By Peter Sillifant.